So every few weeks two friends and I have been getting together and cooking some meals for the freezer. I have done this by myself in the past, but it is REALLY fun to do with friends! The work gets done more quickly, and you can chit chat while you chop and stir. :)
~Quick and Spicy Tomato Soup http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/quick-and-spicy-tomato-soup-recipe/index.html
~Vegetable Chowder http://www.marthastewart.com/portal/site/mslo/menuitem.fc77a0dbc44dd1611e3bf410b5900aa0/?vgnextoid=b281934be4b0f010VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default&backto=true
~Chicken Enchiladas http://www.food.com/recipe/simply-sour-cream-chicken-enchiladas-129926
~Mac and Cheese http://www.food.com/recipe/fannie-farmers-classic-baked-macaroni-and-cheese-135350?scaleto=8&mode=null&st=true
~Whole Wheat Pizza Dough http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/whole-wheat-pizza-dough?backto=true
We made a few substitutions on the recipes. For the Vegetable Chowder, we used frozen corn (the one from Trader Joe's, it's SO good!) and green beans (the frozen haricots verts, also Trader Joe's). For the Chicken Enchiladas, we used light sour cream. For the Mac and Cheese, we didn't use cream -we used all milk instead.You don't have to make these changes, I just wanted to mention that we did. :)
So the first thing we made was the Mac and Cheese:
A quick note- the way you store the food is as important as actually making the food. For casseroles, I like to use the foil, disposable 9x13 pans. The reason for this is two-fold. First, I don't have to occupy my two 9x13 pans in case I need to use them before I eat the frozen casserole. The second reason I like to use them is that it is SO nice to be able to just throw it away after cooking the meal and not have to scrub it!! Also, if you needed to bring someone a meal, it would be ideal to cook and take somewhere as well.
For soups, I love the large, rectangular Ziploc containers. They stack well, fit into the freezer neatly, and two of them generally hold one batch of soup. Make sure you leave about an inch or two head space (room at the top) because the soup will expand as it freezes and you don't want your lids to pop off.
You also need to be sure and bring the cooked meals to room temperature before freezing them , or you will get ice crystals on the food, which can sometimes make them taste "freezer burned". I like to cover my casserole pans with foil, then put them in an extra large, 2 gallon sized Ziploc bag. I get my foil pans and my 2 gallon Ziplocs at the dollar store. They ones they sell work just fine, and they're cheap!
We also made the Vegetable Chowder (a triple batch, we just triple all of the recipes so we each have a full recipe):
Then we made 2 Whole Wheat Pizza Dough crusts a piece, 6 total. You basically make the dough, take it though the first rise and punch down, then you divide each batch of dough into two balls, and stick the two dough balls on a plate in the freezer for about 30 minutes to an hour. Then stick each dough ball into its own Ziploc bag and put it back in the freezer. Each dough ball is enough for a large pizza.
The last thing we made was the Quick and Spicy Tomato Soup:
So we ended up with 5 meals each. (Unless we only use one pizza dough for each meal, then it would be 6 meals!) It took us about 3.5 hours, and the cost was approx. $5.65/meal. Not bad!! Plus, we got to hang out, catch up, and make fun memories together!!
After all that cooking, we put our feet up and enjoyed some yummy sugar cookies that Georgia brought...
~soups, stews, and chowders freeze and reheat VERY well
~pasta casserole recipes (such as Baked Ziti, Lasagna, etc) freeze well, you'll want to make the recipe up to the point where you would stick it in the oven, cool it, and freeze it. Then you can either stick it in the oven frozen (it will take about double the cooking time) or defrost it in the fridge for a day or two before you want to cook it and then it will only take the amount of cooking time in the recipe to bake.
~quick breads freeze well, just be sure to cool them completely, then wrap them well.
I plan on sharing future freezer cooking day menus, so that you can print off what sounds good!!
Happy freezer cooking! :)